Gina Penn, unabridged.

Archive for May, 2011

Dark Layer Delayed

Hello Everyone,

I need to blog a little bit about The Dark Layer, an upcoming book of mine that’s being worked on.

Originally, this book was slated for a May 2011 release. While working diligently to ensure such a date, a window of opportunity opened up to me that I definitely do not want to miss. I have the opportunity to work with a proofreader, a very good proofreader that has worked with JA Konrath, however, she doesn’t have an opening until October. And rather than releasing an inferior product and welcoming bad reviews, I’m putting The Dark Layer on hold until she has a chance to look at it. This will not only ensure a better story but it also gives me time to work on my new horror/sci-fi series called The Other Sky. Book 1-Earth is pouring out of me and I hope readers will like reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

The cover for The Dark Layer is being worked on by a very talented man. If you’re seeking a professional cover for your book, go here:

There is a chance that the book could be looked at sooner but this is not to be counted upon.

So, unless something changes (and I will be sure to announce it if that should happen) expect the book to have a fall 2011 release.

If I can, in the interim, I may release some short stories to tide everyone over until then. Let’s hope time allows this.

Take care everyone and happy reading,


Flying High

This review resonated with me.

Thank you, Wally.

World Horror Convention part 2

This post is not going to be as long as the previous post about the convention but this one will have something the other one didn’t have: pictures.

I Tweeted a few of the pics from the con but wanted to include them in the post in case anyone missed them and wants to see.

Okay, on the last post I left off at the Joe Hill interview. Now I’m picking up at Friday at 7 p.m. on Why Horror Movies are Terrible.

The basic consensus of the panel was-yeah, some are terrible but there are a lot of terrible movies that aren’t horror. Just look at the movie “How Do You Know” with Reese Witherspoon. I saw that movie on the flight to Austin and my god, that movie was effing terrible. Technically it wasn’t a horror movie but it scared me that a movie could be so bad and still get made. Sorry Reese.

People tend to single out horror movies because of bad actor choices (again, not something singular to horror  movies) and bad character motivation. Plus, horror is such a small market compared to say, drama or rom-com, that people that aren’t fans of the genre are making judgments when they really don’t know enough about the genre to make a judgment.

There are a lot of good horror movies out there that I feel deserve some recognition: The Ring, Silence of the Lambs, Aliens (this is sci fi horror), and recently the psychological thriller (but some people call it horror) Black Swan, which garnered Natalie Portman a golden trophy. I wouldn’t call Black Swan horror per se, however, I go back to my previous assessment that horror isn’t really a genre but a feeling and there were some undeniable feelings of horror here, on the same level as Silence of the Lambs. Oh, and did anyone know that Black Swan was an independent film? Yeah, go indie!

The next day I attended a reading of Scott Edelman’s at 11 a.m. His was the only reading I attended so I hope Scott is flattered. Again, I will encourage everyone reading this to buy something of his. He literally oozes talent.

The next panel I went to was called Horror Without Stephen King. I can sum this one up for you: We wouldn’t have such fantastic works as Carrie, Misery, The Shining, The Stand, Shawshank Redemption, (I could go on and on) but someone else would sit at the throne of horror. Probably Jack Ketchum.

Moving on, I attended another panel called The Future of the Book. I didn’t Pulse Pen this panel and I should have because it was very interesting to learn what the panelists (Jeff Burk, Kim Glichrist, Sarah Langan, Robert Fleck, Joe Hill and Fred Venturini thought. (For some reason I think that this list of who was on the panel might be incorrect but that’s what’s in the program so that’s what I’m using. Sorry if there is a discrepancy but because of the lack of good internet connections throughout the hotel, I couldn’t Pulse Pen everything.)

This panel, again, was interesting because there is so much debate on what’s going to happen to the book. Check that-what is happening to the book. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve noticed that some very big and exciting things are happening in the book world and I think a lot of purists would be surprised to know that many of the traditionally published authors are in favor of the e-book. One huge point that was made was connected to this very conference: lugging all those books home is a problem. The brilliant thing about e-books is that you can have thousands of books on an e-reader and not have to sweat over what books to take home and what books to leave. Unfortunately, there was no post office or UPS store anywhere near the hotel and a taxi ride is out of the question because it’s so expensive so, speaking for myself here, I had to leave 3 books behind at the hotel. The rest had to be smashed into my carry-on bag and into my already heavy laptop bag and my back was singing Ave Maria because of the extra weight. Print books, according to the panel, will never go away but they will become more of a collectible item instead of the norm. E-books and e-authors aren’t going away. The last word on the ease and efficiency of publishing an e-book went a little like this: the cream will rise to the top. Those that don’t use editors or proofreaders or write well will sink to the bottom and those whose work is good will rise to the top. Just because a book is in print doesn’t mean you can count on quality. The gatekeepers at the big publishing houses are in it for the money not the art and so indie writers will be in the same class as indie filmmakers and indie musicians. The cream will rise to the top. I kind of liked that. Takes some of the fear, question and shame out of choosing the indie path.

The last panel for Saturday was How To Break Into Comics. I’m going to level with you here: I went to this panel because Joe Hill and Joe Lansdale were there. I love comics but I don’t write comics so it was pure fun, plain and simple.

Around this time on Saturday, April 1st I went into the dealer’s room to check out some of the stuff for sale. I was tired and my back was hurting and I wanted some time to unwind a little before disappearing away from the mass signing. When you have a bad back, mass signings equal one thing: long lines.

Jack Ketchum accepting his award.

I got a chance to meet Jack Ketchum at this point. He was manning his own booth topped high with his books. We conversed a little, the subject matter I will not divulge, sorry, but I took away one thing here. Jack Ketchum is a fantastically nice guy. You can tell he enjoys talking to fans and and hanging out. He was gracious and polite. Not that I wouldn’t have expected these things but in all honesty, not all famous authors are as approachable as Jack Ketchum. He signed a book to me, personally and this made me really happy but I have a feeling he does this for all his fans and that makes me glad. I love knowing that I’m supporting a writer who is truly grateful for his success and knows who gave it to him.

It was at this point that Joe Hill also walked into the dealer’s room and his stand was right next to Jack Ketchum’s. Joe sat and immediately buried his face into his iPad or e-reader (he’s admitted to having more than one). I took this as a sign that it was time to approach him.

Now, out of respect for Joe, there were a few opportunities that I wanted to get his autograph and say hello but I am very shy and nervous and I always feel as though I’m imposing. I’m not one of those fans that’s going to interrupt someone’s lunch or conversation simply because I want to exclaim what a fangirl I am. I will miss an opportunity before doing that-I know that’s dumb but it’s the way I’m built. So, me taking the plunge and walking over to Joe Hill when he appeared not to be busy was a huge step for me. A milestone.

I asked for a moment of his time and he looked up and smiled. I asked if he could sign my book (Gunpowder, a little-known Joe Hill book that I bought at the con) because there was no way I was going to make it to the mass signing because of my back. He said “Sure” and took the book and did his signature doodle. During this time, I told him I was a huge fan and that I even had one of his bookplates (during a recent promotion for Horns in paperback, Joe Hill signed bookplates to those that pre-ordered. That is the third time I’ve purchased Horns.). This was where the good times ended. At the mention of the bookplate, and I’m sure I’ll never know why, Joe Hill looked up at me with such a bewildered look of incredulity that it made me take a step back. It was only a moment but in that moment I was suddenly reduced to the size of an ant and wished I’d never approached him at all. He handed the book back to me, I think I muttered “thanks”, tucked my tail between my legs and hobbled away.

I’m scarred for life now. I don’t think I’ll ever have the guts to approach another published writer. Ever.

Now please understand that I’ve been a Joe Hill fan for a very long time. I didn’t enjoy 20th Century Ghosts nor did I enjoy Heart Shaped Box (the MC in the latter I just couldn’t stand) but Horns is one of my favorite books ever written. I really, really love that book. It’s well-written, Ig is a totally likable character, and the story is resonating. It’s just damned good and it’s one of my comfort books that I can pick up anytime and just read. Very few books make it to that shelf; it lives there with Christine, which is the first King book I ever read. I really wish I knew why or at least understood why Joe Hill gave me such a dirty look. It would ease my pain. But I never will and I just have to tell myself that maybe he was having a bad day or something. So, if by some miracle Joe Hill reads this, I’m truly sorry if I said something wrong and I apologize.

Edit: Joe responded and said he didn’t give me a dirty look. So, my life can now continue unscarred. Thanks, Joe. You have made me feel so much better.

Future of the Book Panel

After such a meeting, I spent Saturday night in the hotel room. I went to the book launch parties but I’m not a big party girl. I was tired, my back hurt and my feelings had just gotten a good sucker punch so I went to bed.

On Sunday, the last day of the con, I attended the Zombies Mega Panel with panelists Joe McKinney, RJ Sevin, Julia Sevin, Sarah Langan, Joe Lansdale and John Skipp. Later Brian Keene also jumped in. It included a rather awesome video intro and was basically a discussion about the zombie genre, how zombies aren’t going anywhere and how they’ve evolved over the years. A fantastic panel and a great way to end the con.

Okay, so this post is probably just as long as the last and I apologize but I hope you’ve read until the end. My overall take-away from this experience is that it was a fantastic con, I’m definitely going again (hopefully with some success under my belt), and if I do, I’ve got to think of a better way to tote my books home.

An Interview

An Interview with Gina Penn by Gina Penn

I decided to have a little fun and interview myself.

Gina: All right, tell me a little about yourself.

Gina: Well, I’ve lived in Ohio all my life, am the proud parent of some very clingy but adorable pets, and I’m a writer.

Gina: How long have you been writing?

Gina: Since I was old enough to pick up a pencil.

Gina: So, you started writing before you could read? That doesn’t sound possible.

Gina: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing or telling stories in some form, be it pictures with crayons or on a computer. It basically boils down to the same thing, just a different form.

Gina: Okay, I get it. What did you used to write about?

Gina: The very first book I ever wrote was in the fourth grade and it was about a rock group on tour. I handed it in for an assignment and the teacher didn’t give it back. To this day, I have no idea if that’s a good or bad thing.  I hope I’ve improved a little since then but I sometimes have my doubts.

Gina: What’s your favorite story you’ve ever written?

Gina: That’s tough because they’re all my children. “The Storm” pulled me out of my writer’s block so that one holds a special place in my heart.  I’m currently working on what may turn out to be a trilogy called “The Other Sky-Book One-Earth”.  It’s a mix of sci-fi and horror and I’m really excited about it because I get cool ideas for it every day. I’m finding ways to explore character development in this book that I’ve never done before and it’s so much fun to play.

Gina: Any people you know in real life making an appearance in this new trilogy?

Gina: Yes. Lots of people. But remember I write horror.  (smiles wickedly)

Gina: I’m not even going to ask. What else do you like besides writing?

Gina: I like horseback riding. Reading, of course. I love trivia and am an avid watcher of Jeopardy and the Discovery channel. I love shows about disasters. I’m also interested in religion although I don’t consider myself to be a terribly religious person.

Gina: Since you write horror, I gotta ask; are you afraid of anything?

Gina: Oh yeah, you bet. A good horror writer has to have fears and know what it feels like to be scared of something, otherwise, what are they drawing from? I’m deathly afraid of clowns; the technical term is coulrophobia and I’ve had a nasty case of it since childhood. I can probably thank Poltergeist and It for that. Also, I’m scared of going to the dentist.

Gina: Anything else you want to say before we close?

Gina: Here are a few things about me that people might not know:

I prefer my dog’s company over that of humans.

Occasionally, I go on info binges. One week I’m obsessed with serial killers and the next week I might obsess over learning how to cultivate the perfect rose.

I could literally eat Mexican food every day and be happy for the rest of my life.

I suffer from crippling shyness even though I don’t come off that way. It’s so crippling that sometimes I can’t maintain eye contact with someone while having a conversation with them. This may lead to the person I’m conversing with to think that I’m a bitch and not interested in what they’re saying but nothing could be further from the truth. My body literally clenches up to where my neck won’t support my head anymore. It’s a real, physical reaction.

I’m not a morning person but that’s my best writing time. I hate my body for choosing this dumb schedule.

I grew up an only child and require alone time to myself every single day to keep from going nuts.

Stephen King is my idol and for a long time I didn’t read any other author. It was only within the last decade or so that I discovered other authors could write almost as good as he can.

Gina: That’s a great list! Now, what say we get a burrito?

Gina: Let’s go.

I need to thank my friend Kara for asking me to do a blog about seven things people may not know about me. This was a lot of fun! Here’s the small print:

1. Thank and link the person who nominated you (which I already did).
2. Share seven random facts about yourself.
3. Pass the award on to five new-found blogging buddies.
4. Contact the winners to congratulate them.
My five buddies and your  mission, if you so choose to accept it:

My World Horror Convention Experience

This blog is about my four day experience at the World Horror Convention 2011 in Austin, Texas.

The World Horror Convention began in the late 80’s when folks that loved horror attended the World Fantasy Con and decided they needed a con of their own. Not long after, in 1991, the first World Horror Convention took place in Nashville, TN.

Being a past attendee of the World Fantasy Convention (last year in Columbus), I can certainly understand why followers of horror felt this needed to happen. The Fantasy Con is close, but not quite the same. People that don’t write or try to understand horror won’t get this but it’s true; horror is an island all its own. There are different rules when it comes to writing horror. Horror isn’t really even a genre-it’s a feeling, an emotion that starts when a certain author, painter, filmmaker, or any orchestrator of something scary creates something that stirs something inside us. Maybe it jangles a long ago memory or maybe it reminds you of a horror movie you saw recently but the desired reaction is to scare you a little or a lot.

I arrived in Austin, Texas early Thursday afternoon after my flight from D.C. to Austin was delayed due to weather. It was on this delayed flight that I bumped into my first WHC friend-Scott Edelman. I could take up an entire blog writing about Scott Edelman and his long career in the horror industry. He’s published over 75 short stories, edited countless magazines, works for the SyFy channel, has been a Stoker award finalist five times and a Hugo Award finalist for best editor. Not to mention, an extremely nice and down-to-earth gentleman and I can’t say enough how privileged I am to have been stuck on a plane with him while we waited for the pounding rain to stop outside so our plane could take off. I attended a reading of his over the weekend and was blown away by this man’s talent. If any of you out there in Blogland haven’t read anything of his, I implore you; please do. He’s immensely talented and just awesome. He is the zombie writer extraordinaire.

Due to an unfortunate incident involving my back (for anyone unaware, I have arthritis in my spine and sometimes I’m forced to use a cane to walk with) my trek from Ohio to Texas made me extremely tired and so I didn’t attend Thursday’s opening ceremonies or any of the readings or panels. If anyone out there is wondering who I am, I was the girl with the black hair and the wooden knotty pine cane that hobbled around the hotel all weekend. Yeah, that was me. It seems that whenever I travel I have some type of injury. In November of 2009 when I flew to MN to a Stephen King reading, both my ankles were sprained. Yes, I flew to MN to see Stephen King read on stage with two sprained ankles. And yes, I’m nuts.

On Friday I attended a panel called “Why Write Short Stories?” and the panelists were Joe Hill, Molly Tanzer, Claude Lalumiere, Orrin Grey, Suzanne Church and Brad Sinor.

This was an interesting panel for me because I just recently published a short story collection and so I was interested in hearing what was said about short stories. Joe Hill began by saying “I think the short story form is the great classroom for writers to learn their craft”. He spent three years on a project called “Fear Tree” that was turned down everywhere and that’s when he decided he needed to “get small”. He also said it’s a “set of skills that are acquired through practice”. Claude Lalumiere commented that the skills it takes to write short stories aren’t the same as writing a longer work. A novel is a “long investment of time” while writing short stories does not “bog down the project when my mind is elsewhere”. Orrin Grey concurred this thought by saying short stories are “quick” and there’s an advantage, both creatively and also for the reader, in this. Suzanne Church said that short stories help to “build the brand” and your platform as a writer. Joe Hill went on to say that there aren’t “different rules when it comes to writing short stories versus long”. He also says that you have to “get your hooks in with an editor in the first page, first paragraph, first sentence, if possible and keep him there. And it’s not different in novels and you can’t have a chapter that floats around…It has to count.” He continues, “you create a trance in a short story…and it’s very hard to do that in a book.” Claude Lalumiere commented by saying the great thing about short stories is that you can read them in “one sitting” and all the panelists agreed that if they’re reading a short story, they want to read it in one sitting. (I have to agree here-it gives you such a sense of accomplishment when reading and finishing a story in one night.”  Brad Sinor commented that “…you have a 150 words to get the editor’s and reader’s attention” and it was said that “150 is A LOT”.  The opening paragraph is “scary” according to Joe Hill and Claude agrees that you have to “seduce” your readers. The panel then went on to discuss length and Brad Sinor said it depends on the “guidelines”. “Shorter is better.” Joe Hill: “I start with a concept. I need an idea I’m excited about. After that I need a character…and the third thing I need is the story has to be more than itself. It has to ask an interesting question.”

Joe Hill touched briefly on discovering new authors: “Short stories are the best way to discover a writer… Things are starting to change a lot in the last year or two and we’re pretty excited about it. People have new e-readers, the nook, Kindle and the iPad and those markets are very open to short stories. If someone writes a 20,000 short story, novella…they put it up on the Kindle, nook or iPad and it makes the perfect bite-size length for someone to download and read on their e-reader. There’s a magazine called “One Story” you can purchase on your Kindle, they publish one story a month and it’s great…”

Another interesting comment that was made was about editors being needed, regardless of what type of fiction, short or long, you write. Editors are needed to challenge you on your writing as well as finding all the mistakes you make.

The next panel discussion I went to was called “New Blood” and featured panelists Rio Youers, John Rector, John Horner Jacobs, Jesse Bullington, Guido Henkel, and Norman Prentiss. This discussion was focused mainly on the new generation of horror writers and what they bring to the table. (Unfortunately, I did not Pulse Pen this panel so I’m relying only on my notes!)

“New blood” isn’t necessarily “new” at writing. Writers can start in random places, such as video games, short stories, poetry, comics, etc… Rio commented that he received a blurb from Peter Straub and it helps to make connections from people bigger than you are. (I couldn’t agree more.) Guido Henkel commented that he “doesn’t like agents” and that socializing and networking are important. Guido also went on to say “trust your instincts-it doesn’t matter what people say.” There are opinions and there is advice and advice is not necessarily always good. (Guido mentioned that someone told him to change his name! Can you imagine?) One simple truth is that there is no simple truth. From here on out, the panelists discussed work that was done early in the careers of some well known artists and took a few random questions at the end.

The next panel I attended was a reading and interview with Joe Hill, a guest of honor at the convention.

Joe did a reading of his newest work, entitled “Nos 4 A 2”, an upcoming novel he’s currently working on. I have to admit, this work sounds interesting as well as maybe a little humorous, with Joe’s unmistakable style of writing leaning toward the sexually bent.

After Joe’s reading, he took the time to answer a few questions.

Regarding Twitter: “Twitter is great, Twitter is awesome, love Twitter. There are other formats, you know, and as a writer, I’m interested in any form where I can write…if I look at all the different things I’ve tried, short stories, comics, novels, or screenplays, the literary form I clearly suck at the most is blogging. I’m a terrible blogger, I hate doing it… but Twitter I get. Twitter is 140 character posts and essentially (embodies) the most noble literary form which is the one-liner. Mark Twain would have Twittered.” I like it myself, Joe.

On musical artists that inspire: “I listened to a song called “Beautiful Wreck” about 250 times…I listen to a lot of heavy metal, a lot of Kiss. I’ve listened to a lot of Tom Petty while working on this one (Nos 4 A 2).”

On his dad: “The elephant in the room is my dad, Steve King. And, you know, it’s something I’m fairly comfortable discussing, might not have been a few years ago… When I was in college, I got thinking about, I do want to be a writer, I do want to be a novelist, but the last name might be a disadvantage. Because, I figured, I’d write something mediocre and come out as Joseph King and a publisher might see it as a way to make a quick buck on the last name. And people would say, he just got somewhere because of his dad. Readers are really smart, they might buy your first book because your dad is someone famous but if it’s no good they’ll never buy the second one.  I decided to drop the last name and write as Joe Hill and was able to keep the pen name under wraps for about ten years. I had a great trick I used to keeping it under wraps, it’s called “failure”. It’s amazing, no one will figure it out if you can’t get anything published.”

Is he ever going to consider doing a video game? “No.”

On acting: “I was in my dad’s film, “Creepshow”. I’m the kid that gets slapped by Tom Atkins. They had to do the make up, so it was like, a bruise on my face, and after that scene, I went to McDonald’s and went through the drive through, “I want a milkshake! I want a milkshake!” and my dad, he’s like, “get the kid a chocolate milkshake” and he looks around and everyone in the drive-thru is looking at me and then looking at him like they’re thinking, “You piece of shit! You slap the kid and then bribe him with a chocolate milkshake.”


Tune in tomorrow for the remainder of the weekend, where I’ll blog about the panel “Why Horror Movies are Terrible”, the Grand Master Award Presentation (winner Jack Ketchum), the book launches, my reading with Scott Edelman, the panel “Horror Without Stephen King, “The Future of the Book”, “How to Break Into Comics”, and the Sunday mega panel on Zombies.